The owners of Coos Canyon Campground near Byron, Maine, and their project engineer agreed Thursday night (Aug. 18) to revamp their plan for expanding the operation in hopes of getting it approved.
Three court-appointed planning officials from Hanover, Stratton and Albion sat in the stifling-hot schoolhouse reviewing the project's plans and the town's 2007 campground ordinance. Their goal was to approve Roger and Judy Boucher's application for the expansion, with or without conditions, or to deny it, the Sun Journal, Lewiston, reported.
William Brogan, of Falmouth, was present to help walk the planning officials through the project. Brogan is representing the Bouchers as their project engineer.
The previous mediation meetings had tense moments and this one was no different. A group of citizens from Byron is against the expansion project. The discussion at times went off topic with citizens expressing concerns over the existing campground. At times harsh words were exchanged between the opposing sides. The planning officials worked to keep the questions focused on the project.
The panel used the town's 2007 campground ordinance to make sure the project's plans met all requirements, including drainage, protecting wetlands, roads and signage. A 2008 ordinance was not used due to a lawsuit the Bouchers filed against the town. Previously Judy Boucher had said she believed the 2008 ordinance was thrown out because the judge thought it was biased.
The planning officials, John Gauthier, Peter Farnsworth and Bill Najpauer, agreed that the 2007 ordinance was flawed. They struggled throughout the night to work around the issues caused by the ordinance.
The officials discussed at length about conditions for the plan and if the ordinance allowed such waivers. After 3 1/2 hours, the planners asked the project manager and the Bouchers to amend the plan with certain features, including changing the map to show general picnic tables, reconfiguring two campsites on the grounds and changing the nighttime noise rule from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.
Judy Boucher said she felt with the court-appointed planning officials there was fairness to the application process. "It's been difficult dealing with the town but I am still hopeful," she said.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 31, at the schoolhouse in Byron.
Three court-appointed planning officials took comment Wednesday night (Aug. 10) from several residents in a crowd of 35 on the merits of the proposed Coos Canyon Campground expansion project near Byron, Maine.
Roger and Judy Boucher's campground, which is south of Coos Canyon on Route 17, borders the Swift River and is located across the river from several private landowners, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
The Bouchers want to add 20 recreational vehicle sites and 11 tent sites on 94 acres of their land on a peninsula-like area of woods on the western side of Route 17. There would be a 100-foot buffer from the sites to the Swift River.
During the nearly two-hour public hearing, code enforcement officers Peter Farnsworth of Stratton and Bill Najpauer of Albion and former Hanover code enforcement officer John Gauthier limited comment to the merits of the project.
Farnsworth, Najpauer and Gauthier are involved in the process rather than Byron's Planning Board due to a suit the Bouchers filed after townspeople in 2008 enacted an ordinance banning existing commercial campground expansion or future development.
The lawsuit went to mediation, resulting in the neutral panel of planning officials.
The mediation judge ruled that Farnsworth, Najpauer and Gauthier must deliberate the merits of the expansion using Byron's May 2007 ordinance. It doesn't matter if that ordinance is defunct.
“This was the ordinance that the lawyers in mediation, and ultimately, the judge signed,” Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said.
Judy Boucher said the judge “threw out the other ordinances because it was proven they were biased.”
Farnsworth began the session by having the Bouchers' project engineer, William Brogan of Falmouth, provide an overview of the project. This followed an earlier site walk of the proposed expansion.
Per the 2007 ordinance, Brogan said each RV site is 10,000 square- with 12-foot-wide driveways off an 18-foot-wide improved gravel road.
Crowd comments concerned noise issues, future expansion, plans to address nuisance campers, swimmers exiting the river on privately-owned beaches and land, the number of proposed sites, expansion prevention, illegal camping, multiple vehicles on sites and more.
Citing past sentiment against the expansion by a majority, Byron Planning Board Chairman Dave Duguay asked the panel to deny the application.
Tim Gallant worried about illegal camping.
Planning Board member Rosie Susbury asked if the Bouchers are able to amend their application. Farnsworth and Najpauer said they'd have to check with the judge.
Susbury also worried aloud that the Bouchers would allow campers to put more than one RV on each site. Roger Boucher said they wouldn't, although there is no language in the ordinance regulating sites.
Additionally, Najpauer said there is nothing in the ordinance pertaining to nuisance campers.
Others spoke supporting the Bouchers, their campground and the proposed expansion, saying it will help improve the town's economy and tax base while providing some jobs to teens.
During deliberations that followed, the panel grilled Brogan on the widths and lengths of some sites, saying the ordinance only allows up to a 40% variance in dimensions.
Gauthier said some sites are larger than allowed, which Brogan acknowledged, then said they meet the ordinance's criteria for waivers.
The session will continue at 6 p.m. Aug. 18 in the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse.
A public hearing on an application to expand the Coos Canyon Campground near Byron, Maine, is set for Wednesday (Aug. 10) at the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
Testimony will be received on Roger and Judy Boucher's plan to expand the campground, which is south of Coos Canyon on Route 17. The campground borders the Swift River and is situated across the river from several private landowners.
Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said Code Enforcement Officers John Gauthier of Hanover, Peter Farnsworth of Stratton and William Najpauer of Albion will conduct the meeting of Byron's Planning Board.
The three officers have been involved in the application because of a suit filed by the Bouchers after the town's ordinance apparently prohibited expansion of their campground.
The Bouchers could not be contacted for comment.
Simmons-Edmunds said plans are to expand the number of recreational vehicle sites from 39 to 60 and the number of tent sites from eight to 11.
She said the lawsuit went to mediation instead of to court. As a result, the neutral panel of code enforcement officers has been reviewing the application and will make a final decision on whether the campground expansion can proceed.
Simmons-Edmunds said the town also had to pay a $21,500 settlement, covered by municipal insurance, to the Bouchers.
The involved parties have been working with the code enforcement officers monthly since the beginning of 2011, Simmons-Edmunds said.